Liberian President Samuel Doe’s Uneasy Options

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President Samuel Kanyon Doe’s much-publicised visit to Togo and Nigeria, early this week, was supposed to underline the stability of his regime, and his firm grip of the situation inside Liberia. But in the end, the ironic twist to it, of an Head of State, almost on the way out of power, was not lost to observers.


Addressing a news conference in Lome, Togo, President Doe was able re-saddle his old hobby horse of accusing the neighbouring countries, Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Libya, of being behind the rebel, Liberian Patriotic Forces, led by Charles Taylor. While his request for military support from Nigeria, was politely turned down, by the authorities in Lagos, according to diplomatic sources.


There is no doubt today, that President Samuel Doe, is embattled, has become fairly desperate, and does not have a popular base of support, amongst the vast majority of the Liberian people. It was this fact, that explained the incredible speed at which the forces of the Liberian Patriotic Movement, have been able to make the gains of the last five months of their insurgency, which began on Christmas eve, with about 200 guerrillas.

President Samuel Doe’s counter-insurgency tactics became an all-out genocide against the people of the Nimba County, who had not forgiven Doe for his earlier reprisals, after the failed coup of 1985, led by Brigadier-General Quiwonkpa. Hundreds of people fled into the bush to join the rebels, to escape the atrocities of the government’s army. Meanwhile, thousands of people fled across the borders into Guinea and Cote D’Ivoire.


The seriousness of the situation, led the Americans, with the largest foreign community, as well as European countries, to evacuate their citizens, as the rebels were said to be poised, less than one hundred kilometres away from Monrovia, itself. Observers believe that it was just a matter of time, before the rebel onslaught on the capital. This because even the army is not motivated to fight, while desertion rates are said to be high.


It was within the context of the emergency situation, that the Washington-based Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia (ACDL), presented a new initiative to end the war. The initiative envisages the constitution of an interim government, with President Samuel Doe, stepping down from power, and a truce being called between the warring parties. A bold initiative, no doubt, but one that President Doe is unlikely to heed, if his pronouncements on the war, are anything to go by. It is this attitude, which makes observers to prepare a scenario of an all-out war, which can only terminate in Monrovia.


In the meantime, the economy is in very deep recession, the prices of the basic staple, rice, is skyrocketing, while the economic management style of the regime, have not helped matters at all. There is a huge black market economy; there is also the disappearance of the dollar, as a result of hoarding, while the regime has been accused of massive corruption, which led the United States, its main financier, to close the financial and aid taps.


President Samuel Doe is the architect of his own misfortunes. After the overthrow of the Americo-Liberian ruling cliques in 1980, Samuel Doe and the young officers with whom he launched his coup, built an alliance with the popular forces, that had opposed the tyranny of the President Tolbert administration. But over the year, President Doe’s intolerance and heavy-handedness, led to the alienation of all popular forces and the democratic opposition, which was systematically muzzled, in a mixture of pseudo-democratic manipulations and acts of naked brutality.


If another confirmation is needed for the assertion that there can be no alternative to democracy, the protection of human rights, and the people’s participation in the determination of their own destiny, then the unfolding scenario in Liberia, is a case in point.


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